Under water: Mozambique, Indonesia and the US struggling with floods


Cyclone leaves trail of destruction 

MAPUTO/HARARE • Mozambique started three days of national mourning yesterday after a powerful cyclone and flooding killed hundreds of people and left a trail of destruction across swathes of southeast Africa.

Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique's port city of Beira with winds of up to 170kmh last Thursday, then moved inland to Zimbabwe and Malawi, flattening buildings and putting the lives of millions of people in danger.

Drone footage showed residents of a shantytown at the port still picking through wreckage days after the storm hit and trying to drag plastic sheeting over their ruined homes.

The film, released by the Red Cross, showed the settlement pockmarked with empty plots where the winds had blown whole buildings from their foundations.

"Great floods have sowed mourning and devastation in various areas of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi," Pope Francis said yesterday. "I express my pain and closeness to those dear people."

Mozambique's President Filipe Nyusi said a day earlier that the cyclone had killed more than 200 people in his country but rescuers were still discovering more bodies.

In neighbouring Zimbabwe, the official death count stands at 98 but is likely to grow as hundreds are still missing.

In the worst-hit eastern parts of Zimbabwe, grieving families rushed to bury their dead because the cyclone has knocked out power supplies and stopped mortuaries from functioning.

Malawi has not released details of any casualties from the storm, which weakened as it moved further inland over the weekend, leaving heavy rains in its wake.

International aid groups raced yesterday to rescue survivors and meet spiralling humanitarian needs, saying they were struggling to reach many survivors trapped in remote areas of Mozambique surrounded by wrecked roads and submerged villages.

"We've thousands of people... in roofs and trees waiting for rescue," Ms Caroline Haga, spokesman for the International Federation of Red Cross, said in the storm-ravaged Mozambican city of Beira. "We are running out of time. People have been waiting for rescue for more than three days now," she said.

Unicef estimated that 260,000 children were at risk there. "Challenges remain in terms of the search and rescue of thousands of people, including children," the agency said.

Beira, a low-lying coastal city of 500,000 people, is home to Mozambique's second-largest port and serves as a gateway to landlocked countries in the region.

There were food and fuel shortages in parts of central Mozambique because Beira is cut off by road, local media reported.

Zimbabwe's Grain Millers Association said 100 trucks carrying wheat destined for Zimbabwe were stuck in Beira.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa was yesterday due to visit the worst-affected areas. Both Mozambique and Zimbabwe have declared a state of emergency in some areas.

The floods also brought the threat of waterborne diseases, said aid group Doctors Without Borders.

"People are using well water with no chlorination, and that water is unlikely to be clean and safe to drink... Pneumonia and other respiratory diseases are going to be a problem," Mr Gert Verdonck, an emergency coordinator with the charity said from Beira.

The European Union announced on Tuesday an initial emergency aid package of €3.5 million (S$5.4 million) to Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe for emergency shelters, hygiene, sanitation and healthcare.

Britain and the United Arab Emirates have also pledged aid.


Residents wading through floodwaters in Sentani, near Jayapura in Papua province, Indonesia, on Monday. The floods and landslides, which hit Sentani on Saturday, have displaced nearly 10,000 people, who have been scattered across 18 relief shelters. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Indonesia's Papua

Mass burials planned as death toll tops 100

JAKARTA • Indonesia's eastern-most province of Papua is planning to hold mass burials for the victims of flash floods, as the death toll from the disaster rose to 104 yesterday, with nearly 10,000 people displaced, the National Disaster Management Agency said.

The floods and landslides injured 160 people, 85 of them seriously, while 79 people were missing, said Mr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the agency.

After consulting families and churches, a mass funeral for the victims would be held today, he said.

The floods and landslides struck during the weekend, near the provincial capital of Jayapura, after torrential rain fell across the Cyclops mountain range, much of which has been stripped of trees by villagers chopping firewood and farmers cultivating plantations.

Disaster authorities had warned provincial officials of the danger of flash floods due to deforestation.

Hundreds of homes, bridges, schools and other public facilities were destroyed.

More than 2,300 personnel have been deployed to search for the missing victims and to clean up debris.

Fourteen excavators had been deployed to help clear blocked roads, while temporary bridges were also being built in some areas after access had been cut.

The nearly 10,000 displaced people were scattered across 18 relief shelters and they would be moved to six camps to help streamline aid distribution, the spokesman said.

Flooding is common in Indonesia. In January, floods and landslides killed at least 70 people on Sulawesi island, while earlier this month hundreds in West Java province were forced to evacuate when torrential rains triggered severe flooding.


Cars stranded in floodwaters from the Pecatonica River in Freeport, Illinois, on Monday. Several Midwest states are battling some of the worst flooding in decades as rain and melted snow inundate rivers and streams. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

US Midwest

No respite yet from rain and melted snow

ATLANTA • The flooding that devastated the US Midwest is likely to last into next week, as rain and melted snow flow into Kansas, Missouri and Mississippi, the National Weather Service (NWS) said.

Floods driven by melting snow in the Dakotas will persist even as Nebraska and Iowa dig out from storms that have killed four people, left one missing and caused more than US$1 billion (S$1.35 billion) in damage to crops, livestock and roads.

"It's already not looking good downstream for the middle and lower Mississippi and Missouri (rivers) into Kansas, Mississippi and Missouri," Mr Bob Oravec, a meteorologist with the NWS' Weather Prediction Centre, said yesterday.

The floodwaters have inundated a swathe of Iowa and Nebraska along the Missouri River, North America's longest river. Half of Iowa's 99 counties have declared a state of emergency.

About 25mm of rain is predicted for Saturday in the region, Mr Oravec said. "It's not a lot, but any precipitation is bad right now."

US Vice-President Mike Pence toured some parts of Nebraska on Tuesday and promised to help expedite federal help to the region.

Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin and Mississippi all declared a state of emergency after the floods, which stemmed from a powerful winter hurricane last week.

The flooding killed livestock, destroyed grains and soya beans in storage, and cut off access to farms because of road and rail damage.

The authorities said they had rescued nearly 300 people in Nebraska alone, with some rivers continuing to rise.

Rescuers could be seen in boats pulling pets from flooded homes.

Some roadways crumbled to rubble and sections of others were submerged. In Hamburg, Iowa, floodwaters covered buildings. 


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2019, with the headline 'Under water'. Subscribe